Insights and Trends - Healthcare Communications
In reference to our findings, the trends in healthcare communication that are specifically focused on how hospital systems communicate to their patients, employees, and the press include online communication as support in health services, the increased use of mobile technology to humanize health services, the increased transparency in communication, the adoption of medical wearables for communication, integrating different communication channels, and the increased patient engagement and patient centered communications. Our research strategy and a detailed look at each trend follows below.
To address the research criteria, we leveraged leading industry publications, expert blogs, and informational databases in our search for information on healthcare communications trends. We began by searching for case studies of hospital systems that we could use to derive communication trends and insights. Examples of the healthcare systems that we looked at include Universal Health Services, Catholic Health Initiatives, Encompass Health Corporation, Ascension Health, Community Health Systems, and Duke Health. The common insights across these systems was the use of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality via websites and mobile applications.
Next, we checked expert blogs and noted the key insights that they contained. Our intention here was to get industry expert comments, advice, and observations on healthcare communications trends that we could use to address the research criteria. Through this strategy, we were able to identify several trends, but we picked the trends that were common across several expert blogs. We then expanded our search to include leading publications within the healthcare industry such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information and Elseveir. Our aim was to identify the common and most recent healthcare communication insights using the information that was available in these publications. Using this strategy, we again identified relevant trends such as transparency when communicating to employees, patients and the press and the use of telemedicine and electronic platforms. Finally, we used the most recent and most common healthcare communications trends that featured across different health systems to answer the research question.
TRENDS IN HEALTHCARE COMMUNICATION
1. ONLINE COMMUNICATION AS SUPPORT IN HEALTH SERVICES
Following in the footsteps of the latest technological innovations, virtual assistants that are based on Artificial Intelligence are consolidating data in the healthcare industry to make how hospitals communicate with patients more effective. In addition to creating medical appointments online communication services are also used for constant communication support including "sharing cases, tutorials or examples in a more didactic and immediate way."
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are already being used in healthcare communications. For example, AR and VR are already being used to help patients that have mental problems and beyond this, these technologies are a "great educational and playful tool for the benefit of patients and health specialists."
In addition, there is an aspect of telemedicine where videoconferencing is used to provide at-home care for the elderly and mobility challenged.
2. INCREASED USE OF MOBILE Technology TO HUMANIZE HEALTH SERVICES
In 2018, mobile applications started to be implemented in healthcare communications because they presented a viable way of humanizing health services. Examples of such implementations include "applications that help reduce stress prior to an operation or an invasive medical test and applications that keep family members informed when a patient is hospitalized." Such instances are examples of how mobile applications are key to internal and external communication within a healthcare facility.
3. INCREASED TRANSPARENCY IN COMMUNICATION AS A DIFFERENTIAL VALUE
In the healthcare industry, there is an increasing level of distrust because of the sensitivity of personally identifiable health information. Consequently, companies in the healthcare industry have been rethinking their communication policies to ensure there is transparency in communication to stakeholders that include patients, healthcare workers, and the press.
Advantages of increased transparency in healthcare communications include "faster response to the media, improved accessibility to data of interest to the patient and the promotion of a solid internal management of care and service." Additionally, boosting accessibility and transparency of online consultation is likely to boost the reputation and customer loyalty of a firm in the healthcare industry.
4. ADOPTION OF MEDICAL WEARABLES FOR COMMUNICATION
Medically appropriate wearable devices are constantly being worn on the body to monitor health parameters and transmit the collected data to users and medical professionals so as to ensure timely communication. Wearable medical devices continue to become popular because of the fast pace of today's life because they are an efficient way to bridge the communication gap between patients and doctors and enhance health services.
In 2018, the number of people that were using telehealth devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers to track their health metrics and well-being increased to 7 million people globally. In addition, "patients are provided with monitoring devices to control diseases and take proactive steps towards mitigating possible consequences."
5. USE OF INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION CHANNELS
The use of different and integrated communication channels gives individuals in the healthcare space the opportunity to offer more channels for patients, the press, and employees to ask questions, comment, and give their opinions. Integrated communication takes place through the use of various communication channels that include online and "mouth to mouth" communication methods.
6. INCREASED PATIENT ENGAGEMENT AND PATIENT CENTERED COMMUNICATION
Another trend in healthcare communication entails increased patient engagement in issues of healthcare that is supported by the growing availability of digital tools like wearables, patient Electornic Health Record systems, and content libraries.
There is increased use and promotion of "patient portals through in-office touchpoints such as digital signage and during consultations and office visits." Additionally, communication is also being done through patient portals via "out-of-office touchpoints like on-hold messaging and website content."